Over 14 aircraft received ACA and Sydney ATC slot approvals to take over 40 pilots and passengers on Sunday morning after two weeks of planning. Unfortunately, the weather spirits were not helpful and the early departures arrived at the Clubhouse at 8am to find heavy rain showers, low cloud and convective activity. As more pilots and passengers arrived, the pressure was growing as the weather was not improving yet our carefully planned schedule and slot approvals for arriving into Sydney were rapidly approaching.
The weather started to improve at 11am and there was some pressure to get up and not lose slots and our careful planning with Sydney ATC but this is where one of the important laws of aviation kicked in – better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air rather than be in the air and wishing you were on the ground! Yes, get-there-itis is a massive threat in aviation and with the large number of VFR pilots it was an easy decision to delay departure and start up the BBQ!
Whilst Rod started cooking up a storm on the BBQ I was on the phone to ACA and ATC to reschedule ALL the slots plus change a few planes. ACA & ATC went out of there way to help, in their words the SFC Air Force visit to Sydney Mascot. They gave us massive flexibility and discretion to have all the SFC aircraft get into YSSY in a safe VFR manner given the weather. Whilst we waited as a large group of pilots and passengers from SFC, other aero clubs, other private plane owners from YSBK and YSCN plus even a few from other schools we listened to the ATIS and monitored the weather.
In the meantime the group of aviators enjoyed a BBQ feast of beef sausages, Moroccan lamb, Greek chicken and fried onions with salads plus rolls. The weather finally started to clear and we were VFR legal just after 1pm, soon after aircraft started to call up Sydney tower to start clearance for engine start. Bankstown tower had been briefed in advance and were excellent coordinating with Sydney to give a large circuit into Sydney for all the SFC aircraft.
Depart 29 left turn to Sutherland, then Cronulla to then intercept final runway 34L for a “Stop and Go”. The 14 SFC aircraft flights started streaming from Bankstown with full passenger loads on the airliners circuit. Visibility was great and most aircraft had the amazing experience of coming down final on 34L over Botany Bay with the HAIL lights blaring and Jetstar/Qantas jets waiting on the left hand taxiway Alpha for a Warrior / Cessna / Cirrus to land. I wonder what the airline pilots and passengers in the Jetstar and Qantas planes were thinking about the SFC Air Force arriving and delaying their departure?
Most of the SFC aircraft landed on 34L and took first left on taxiway alpha to taxi back to the end A6 of the runway to await takeoff on 34L , the longest runway in the Southern Hemisphere. It was quite an experience taxing behind a Jetstar jet on the taxiway waiting for one of our Cirrus to land. The passenger jets away we lined up on 34L and were off again for an immediate left turn back to Bankstown. The city flying past our right wings and flying over the inner west with amazing views it was just a blink of an eye before we were being handed back to Bankstown tower for a immediate clearance to join final 29R.
Back on the ground and at the clubhouse we waited for the last flights of the day to return from the ultimate scenic flight whilst having drinks on the balcony finishing off the leftover of BBQ, chips and sweets. As we packed away at the end of the day, the sun started to set on a beautiful Sydney evening in an almost unrecognizable scene compared with the bad weather we had started the day. Another good lesson in that good things come to those that wait!
The purpose of the Club fly in was to provide members with the opportunity and the confidence to fly into a busy Class C airport. The key message is that with good planning and instruction there is no reason why private pilots can’t use these major airports as they offer huge utility and are generally very friendly to GA (eg Gold Coast, Canberra, Cairns, Alice Springs, Adelaide etc…..)
Please feel free to grab an SFC instructor and book a lesson, a TIF or as a safety pilot to go into Sydney or another Class C airport. You won’t regret the experience and the confidence it will bring you as a pilot.